Weekend Preview: Mary Pickford Silent Film Festival, Beer Wars, And Singer Songwriter Matt Costa
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. This week we welcome back the Weekend Preview to These Days. Why a weekend preview on Thursdays, you say? Well, frequent listeners to the show will know that These Days runs Monday through Thursday and this is the closest we ever get to the weekend. Besides, by the time Thursday rolls around, most people are beginning to think about what to do and where to go, who to spend time with and what to see this weekend. So, for the rest of the hour we'll be giving you some suggestions about what's happening in San Diego this weekend. My guests are Liz Bradshaw. She is the curator of The Loft, which is a performance venue and wine bar at UCSD, and she’s worked in the music industry for many years. Good morning, Liz.
LIZ BRADSHAW (Curator, The Loft, UCSD): Good morning, Maureen.
CAVANAUGH: And Anders Wright is the film critic for San Diego CityBeat. Hi, Anders.
ANDERS WRIGHT (Film Critic, San Diego CityBeat): Good to see you, Maureen.
CAVANAUGH: Now, Liz, let’s start with you. TNT is an event put on by the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. It stands for Thursday Night Thing. It’s an extremely popular event but it’s been on hiatus for awhile, starts up again tonight. Why was it on a break?
BRADSHAW: That’s right, TNT has been on a break since March of this year, so around six months now. And at that time MCASD had to make the very difficult decision to suspend the extremely popular program out of necessity due to budget cuts and obviously the factors that the economy were having on the museum…
BRADSHAW: …and the staffing shortages and such.
CAVANAUGH: …more budget cuts. We always talk about the budget cuts.
BRADSHAW: Unfortunately. And it’s such a shame because, you know, what a great event and I know that people were really wondering, you know, what happened to TNT? Where did it go?
WRIGHT: Well, as they say, it’s the economy, stupid.
CAVANAUGH: Oh, I know. And we should mention that The Loft, where you serve as curator is a partner for tonight’s TNT. You helped select the music guests that we’re going to talk about. You know, there’s an artist and musician that we’re going to be talking about now named Addi Somekh? Is that how you say his name?
BRADSHAW: Yeah, that’s correct. Now, Addi or Ah-dee (phonetically), he’s a balloon artist. A…
CAVANAUGH: A balloon artist?
BRADSHAW: A balloon artist.
CAVANAUGH: We talked about another one on These Days this morning.
BRADSHAW: I know. It’s all fitting in very nicely. Yeah, Addi is the balloon artist. He’s based in LA and he’s also a musician. He creates huge pieces of artwork out of balloons, makes these fantastic balloon hats, balloon jewelry, takes his balloon making around the world. I’ve seen pictures of big balloon necklaces on camels in the middle of the desert. It’s really a sight to behold. But Addi is also working with a quartet. He has a balloon bass quartet. He makes his balloon bass completely out of balloons. I can vouch for it. I’ve seen him make it. It’s absolutely incredible. And to listen to it, you wouldn’t automatically think, oh, yeah, that’s one of those balloon basses I’ve heard so much about.
CAVANAUGH: Well, let’s hear this. This is from his album “Air, Rubber and Soul,” and this is a track called “Juicy Brunette.”
(audio of clip from “Juicy Brunette” from the album “Air, Rubber and Soul”)
CAVANAUGH: That is Addi Somekh playing the balloon. That’s from the album “Air, Rubber and Soul.” It’s a track called “Juicy Brunette.” That must be just a hoot to watch.
BRADSHAW: Yes. It’s really fantastic. And I have just seen him play his balloon bass so low in a small room at the end of a workshop that I was participating in that he gave, and which is one of the funniest experiences of my life, I have to tell you. And so tonight he’ll be playing with a quartet. He has a drummer with him, a coronet player and a guitarist, too. So I think it’s going to be a sight to behold.
CAVANAUGH: And there’s also the art. Have you seen the Tara Donovan exhibit that’s just opened at MCASD?
BRADSHAW: I haven’t been back since it opened but I did have the pleasure of emceeing the exhibit when it was in its installation process. And one piece I was really taken away by was a piece, I think it’s called “Haze.” Now, Tara Donovan, she makes extraordinary pieces and huge form installations out of very ordinary objects. Think toothpicks, scotch tape, tarpaper, drinking straws, Styrofoam cups. The one I saw, made out of entirely thousands and thousands of drinking straws. And just the way the light and shade kind of bounced off the wall and the different texture it gave it, it was quite trippy, really great experience, so I, you know, I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of the installation tonight.
CAVANAUGH: Well, I want everyone to know that TNT takes place tonight at the downtown location of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. And Anders Wright, film critic for San Diego CityBeat, I want to talk to you about “Mary Pickford, the “Mary Pickford Silent Film Festival”…
CAVANAUGH: …taking place. Amazing. The first film superstar.
WRIGHT: Absolutely. And, often, actually she’s credited as being the most important woman in the history of film in terms of the impact that she had. Yeah, this festival’s up at the La Paloma Theater in Encinitas, and it celebrates her 100th – the 100th anniversary of her debut on film.
CAVANAUGH: Oh, and so why is she credited with being so influential?
WRIGHT: Well, you know, there’s a number of things. Beyond being a superstar to begin with, she was also a very hands-on producer. She was one of the founders of United Artists. But actually it gets to something that’s a little more theoretical. When she sort of came onto the scene, really movies were mostly about sort of recreations or film’s versions of Broadway plays. She shot to stardom and people were suddenly – Suddenly, the studios realized that maybe they could make movies about things that didn’t have anything to do with the theatre. And, really, her presence on film sort of created the idea that you can make movies that are just movies.
CAVANAUGH: You know, I’m wondering if people in the audience remember Mary Pickford and, of course, she’s the girl with the golden curls that you might…
CAVANAUGH: …that visual image of her, playing a child for most of her career.
WRIGHT: Yeah, they called her America’s Sweetheart, which is actually kind of funny because she is Canadian…
WRIGHT: …or was Canadian.
CAVANAUGH: Well, what are some of the films that are going to be showing at this festival?
WRIGHT: Well, the – Her best known film is called “My Best Girl,” and that’ll start things off Friday night. There’s also – they’re also going to screen “Annie Rooney,” “The Little American,” and “Sparrows.” And each film will be accompanied by a short as well.
CAVANAUGH: And do you have your favorite?
WRIGHT: I knew you might ask me that. You know, it would be disingenuous for me to say that I’m an expert on Mary Pickford films but certainly “My Best Girl,” there’s a reason it’s her most popular film, and I’ve seen it a couple of times and it’s great. And, of course, every film will be accompanied by live music, too.
CAVANAUGH: Right. Because they’re silent films.
WRIGHT: Exactly, silence is golden.
CAVANAUGH: And the “Mary Pickford Silent Film Festival” runs Friday through Sunday at the La Paloma Theater in Encinitas. Liz, back to you. A singer/songwriter named Matt Costa will be playing at the Casbah on Saturday night. What can you tell us about him?
BRADSHAW: Well, Matt Costa’s from Huntington Beach in Orange County. He grew up as a skateboarder up there and he was about to turn pro until fate took its course, had a leg break, ruined his skateboarding professional career, and he picked up a guitar and started writing songs while he was in his recovery. And then with the help of No Doubt guitarist, actually, Tom Dumont, he was encouraged and started, you know, playing shows around California really. He’s really central to the kind of surf acoustic rock/folk movement. So you’ll see him, he’s actually on Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Records label, so you’ll see him at a lot of surf festivals, a lot of beachy type open air gigs and a lot of acoustic shows, too.
CAVANAUGH: What do you like about his music?
BRADSHAW: You know, I really – I’m a bit of a sucker really for the singer/songwriter, as we said, but I just like his – I like his folk rock pop sensibilities. I really like the catchy piano hooks at the beginning of the songs and he has some great music videos, too. So to watch, he’s an interesting artist.
WRIGHT: He can write a melody.
BRADSHAW: He can write a melody and it’s something that really sticks with you, too.
BRADSHAW: You know, you kind of find yourself bouncing down the street, you know, humming his tunes during the day so…
CAVANAUGH: Well, we have a cut off his last album. This is Matt Costa’s last album, “Unfamiliar Faces,” and this cut is called “Mr. Pitiful.”
(audio of clip of “Mr. Pitiful from the album “Unfamiliar Faces”)
CAVANAUGH: That’s Matt Costa. The cut is “Mr. Pitiful” from his album “Unfamiliar Faces.” That is good. Have you seen him live? How is his live show, Liz?
BRADSHAW: I’ve seen him live. I actually saw him live at a festival. I was working at the festival so I was running around working and trying to kind of stand and catch a few minutes at the same time. Great live show. Lots and lots of energy. I really like his acoustic sets live. And I think what will be interesting about the show at the Casbah is it’ll be nice seeing him in a kind of smaller, more intimate venue. I think his music is going to come across really well in there, so…
CAVANAUGH: Matt Costa plays the Casbah this Saturday night. Let’s move on to a really sort of unlikely venue for a film. We have, this Sunday, the North Park restaurant, Sea Rocket Bistro is becoming a movie theater. Tell us about that, Anders.
WRIGHT: Well, you know, they’ve had a couple of movies there before but they’ve tended to be about fish or seafood, which – or the ocean, since it is a seafood restaurant that does serve some of the most exceedingly fresh food in town. But as part of Beer Week, they’re showing “Beer Wars,” a documentary by Anot Baron about, basically, the sort of rise of the craft brewers and the small brewers. And, yeah, it’s actually a terrific event. They’ve got Baron, the director, will be there along with Chuck Silva, the brewmaster for Green Flash Brewing and Jim Crute from Lightning Brewery. And Greg from Stone Brewery’s going to send down like a video blog that he’s taken. Yeah, you know, they’ve got this big space in the opening – in the front room and so they’re going to screen the movie there, they’ll have a Q&A afterwards, and they’re putting together a menu that’s specific for the event.
CAVANAUGH: I think you said the most important thing on this preview: Beer Week.
WRIGHT: Beer Week.
CAVANAUGH: I didn’t know it was Beer Week.
WRIGHT: Oh, yeah.
CAVANAUGH: Well, did you learn anything from the movie “Beer Wars” that surprised you?
WRIGHT: You know, it’s definitely a tale not just of people who are trying to make better beer than is out there but also sort of how hard it is to get your beer to market. And, I don’t know, I mean, I guess it’s always kind of fascinating to see how the mega corporations try to keep the little guy down. But, you know, it’s a terrific – it’s a terrific documentary and if beer is your thing then it’s a great way to learn about it. I should say, too, that I think seating is limited, so by all means contact them, make a reservation. They’re going to screen the movie a couple more times after – next week during Beer Week as well but the folks will not be in attendance.
CAVANAUGH: “Beer Wars” screens this Sunday at the Sea Rocket Bistro restaurant on 30th Street, followed by a Q&A with the filmmaker. Now, we’re going to sort of speed through our two others, see if we can get them in. “BestFest American Student Film Festival,” Anders, tell us a little bit about that.
WRIGHT: Well, this is a – these are the same guys who send people out for 48 hours of madness each year with – they send out teams of filmmakers into the streets and give them two days to make a movie. This event that’s going on this weekend is actually their student film festival, so it’s basically student – films made from students from all over the country. But really sort of the – You know, that’s pretty cool and then on top of that, they’re bringing in not just the producer from “Boondocks Saints” but now it turns out – I just found out before – just before we went on that the director, Troy Duffy, and the star, Sean Patrick Flanery, of the film will also be there.
CAVANAUGH: That’s, of course, a cult film. I want to let everyone know that “BestFest America Student Film Festival” takes place on Saturday, November 7th at the UltraStar Mission Valley Hazard Center. I think that is going to wrap it up. I think that we can probably go out on some music for – with “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” off first Cage The Elephants – boy, I’m messing this up. Cage The Elephants, “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked.” And we were going to play that to talk about the 949 Anniversary Bash this Saturday night at 4th & B, but we’ve got no time, Liz.
BRADSHAW: Oh. What a shame. Great band, though. It’s going to be an excellent show for those of you who’ve got tickets.
CAVANAUGH: I want to thank Liz Bradshaw. She is curator of The Loft, and Anders Wright, film critic for San Diego CityBeat. Thanks so much.
WRIGHT: Thanks, Maureen.
BRADSHAW: Thank you.
CAVANAUGH: I want to let everyone know These Days is produced by Angela Carone, Hank Crook, Pat Finn, Josette Herdell, Megan Burke, Sharon Heilbrunn and the senior producer is Natalie Walsh. Production Manager Kurt Kohnen, technical assistance Tim Felton. Jordan Wicht and Rachel Ferguson are production assistants. And thank you for listening. We hope you’ll enjoy the rest of the week.